Massachusetts Bill Aims to Thwart Witness Intimidation

BOSTON — State legislators approved a bill that would toughen penalties for intimidation tactics used by gang members and establish a statewide witness protection program.

The legislation comes as Boston and other East Coast cities are experiencing a spike in violent crime and gang activity.

The bill allocates $1.5 million to establish the witness-protection program that would allow witnesses to relocate, obtain new housing and receive police protection. The bill also creates tough penalties for witness intimidation and it allows for prosecution of people that leak grand jury testimony that could jeopardize a trial. The bill makes it easier to prosecute perjury.

The bill was negotiated for nearly a year as the interests of all involved parties — prosecutors, defense attorneys and civil liberties advocates — were considered.

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